With six new signings already in a very pro-active summer break, Canary fans are left wondering who if anyone will be added to make up the final places in Paul Lambert’s 25 man squad.
With all the new signings being from the already well established ‘Lambert Mould’ of hungry young players, eager to test themselves, supporters may worry that Lambert will forgo the temptation to add the one thing to his squad that it seems would calm their worries, Premier League experience.
The Twittering #yellowarmy seem obsessed with it, I myself was undecided on the issue until I put my statistical hat on for EPLIndex and tried to answer the question, When trying to survive in the Premier League how important is experience?
Two teams who fought to the end and near end last season were Blackpool and West Ham. Of the two Blackpool will leave the top flight with the most neutrals singing their praises, as they played with a fearless attacking emphasis. West Ham on the other hand were at times hopeless, despite the influence of the Football Writers Player of the Year Scott Parker they were rightly relegated, with no argument forthcoming from the neutral.
When measured in terms of experience West Ham against Blackpool isn’t even a contest.
I take the statistics from the beginning of the season, how many Premier League appearances did each squad boast. Blackpool the newcomers 514, West Ham over four times that total, 2456 Premier League appearances, and they finished bottom.
Before I move on from those stats there are some disclaimers, firstly Blackpool did add experience as the season went on, the loan signings of Reid and Beattie did seem to indicate that Holloway was keen on players that knew their way around at the top level. It was still however newcomers such as Charlie Adam who led from the front. It is also worth noting that of Blackpool’s 514 appearances, over half were down to one player in Jason Euell, and he ended the season out on loan in the Championship so if anything the figure of 514 is probably an exaggerated one. West Ham’s squad is littered with experience, six players with over 200 games to their name. I was unable to find the exact date of Alessandro Diamanti’s departure, but he played no part in West Ham’s shambolic season so he was left out.
The facts are plain to see, West Ham’s experience did them very few favours. Blackpool’s lack on the other hand, played into their hands. More experienced players might have gone to Anfield in October 2010 and resisted the urge to take risks. Blackpool refused to be overawed and took three points, their first leg in a league double over the Reds. I don’t need reminding that Blackpool were eventually relegated, but in the Premier League they set about their business the only way they could, they played without fear because any other way would have seen them playing against their strengths, and they would’ve gone down before West Ham did.
So how does Norwich’s experience rack up against two of the teams in around the drop zone last season, here’s the tale of the tape.
Norwich have 113 Premier League appearances collectively throughout their current first team squad, other ways to think of that would be Benny McCarthy-1 or 100 less than Carlton Cole. Interestingly, our most experienced Premier League player James Vaughan, hasn’t even played competitively for us yet after signing from Everton, and is also the Premier League’s youngest ever goal scorer. (not that that is relevant here in any way really, but it is however a true fact). Also our second highest appearance maker with 33 Adam Drury, is our only surviving member of our last Premier League squad 2004/05, and already fans are questioning how much Lambert plans to use the former captain.
Are we the least experienced Premier League team ever, maybe. (My limited stat harvesting ability has been tested by EPLIndex’s blank page for promoted teams, why do you think I wasted a hundred or so words of my first article on West Ham?) Looking though at the experiences last season of the Hammers and the Seasiders, there will be nothing to faze the city players; they have earned their chance at the top. This will have been drummed into them by Paul Lambert. I praise Lambert regularly but it could be fairly argued that he is far more ready for the top flight than his team. Of all the premier league managers he is one of only two to win the European Cup as a player, and that is the kind of experience I want leading my team.